Target Behaviorally and Sequentially

Though the holidays are a great opportunity for me to see my family back in Virginia, the thing I dread most is the time I must spend inside an airport. This past Christmas, I suffered the same fate just about everyone else did: multiple delays and long lines.

Usually, I’m guilty of being that dork who must sprint to his gate so he doesn’t miss his flight. That wasn’t the case this past weekend. Instead, I had the luxury of walking at a leisurely pace from one end of the airport to the other, looking for food instead of trying to catch a flight.

While on my trek through the airport, I was amazed to see so many airport ads. I’ve never really paid attention to them as I am not involved with airport advertising and usually running to my gate. Beyond the sheer number of ads, I noticed quite a few were for the same advertisers. This made me wonder if there was any purpose to them other than advertising for advertising’s sake (to reach the intended target audience). Were they part of sequential ads, intended to deliver a clever message about the advertiser? Ultimately, I couldn’t tell.

It made me wonder about sequential messaging within online advertising in general, and specifically whether it’s something we should utilize more in behavioral targeting.

It goes without saying that we all know behaviorally targeted placements work. The question is, how do we make it work in a manner that’s more efficient and more effective?

One way of doing so is by telling the right story when you have the right audience in front of you.

My last column discussed utilizing frequency within the context of behavioral targeting to develop campaigns that minimize waste and deliver more efficient results. Although this is great from a direct response perspective, it doesn’t speak much when an advertiser’s goal is to deliver a branded message. If an ad can generate conversions but can’t tell a story about the brand, that ad ultimately fails to do its job.

If we have the ability to deliver the right audience segment through behavioral targeting, shouldn’t we tell the right story, too? One way to do this is to utilize sequential messaging within the context of behaviorally targeted placements.

Online sequential messaging has been around quite a while. Heck, I remember when I first got into online advertising; one of my first meetings was with a sales rep who talked about the ability to deliver sequential branded messages during a user session. A few years later, I heard the same thing mentioned when NYTimes.com began selling its Surround Sessions product. Though today’s behavioral targeting options won’t provide the walled garden Surround Sessions do, it still provides an opportunity for advertisers to tell a story through multiple ads to a desired segment that may otherwise never have seen the ads.

For those who are already using sequenced-based ads through third-party ad servers such as DoubleClick’s DART, doing so within a behaviorally targeted environment might be a way to deliver higher response rates as well as increased brand awareness and favorability.

Going back to the many ads I saw in the airport terminal, I’ll be honest: I don’t remember a single one of the advertisers. I have no idea if I would’ve remembered them if they were displayed in a sequential manner, but they might have perked my interest more if they had.

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